REVIEW: ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ Is an Edgar Allan Poe Mystery That’s a Little Too Dark (Literally)
3/5 Poe tales
If you want to see a movie that weaves a mystery worthy of the stories we’ve come to know and love from Edgar Allan Poe, then The Pale Blue Eye might be for you. However, it is also not a movie that delves completely into Poe’s ideas, but it isn’t just a movie that simply includes him as a character, either. Let me explain.
The Pale Blue Eye follows Detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) as he investigates a murder. As the case unfolds, he enlists the help of Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling)—before he becomes the Edgar Allan Poe we know as the author of horror stories that haunted readers. The movie itself is a slow burn, and in that way it does feel like it is building a Poe story, similar to how his actual work presented itself to us as we were reading it. But the movie also serves as a fictional way of learning about Poe prior to his work as an author.
The Pale Blue Eye is a work of fiction, so do not go into this thinking you’re going to learn anything about the writer that you don’t already know. But it works so incredibly well because it feels like a story Poe would have told. It can be slow at times, and with a two-hour-plus runtime—and lighting so dark you can barely see what is going on—it can feel like a slog. But Bale and Melling do their best to bring you back into the story with their performances as Landor and Poe—especially in the one light-hearted moment we get to see. (It’s still in the dark, though.)
“You’re an American,” Poe says to Landor, who responds by asking Poe what he is. To this, Poe replies, “an artist.” And that’s about all the fun this movie has—not that it needs to be fun, but it is dark (in both lighting and tone) and we spent much of it lost in the pattern of a Poe story, to the point where we can barely get out of it.
In the darkness there is … more darkness
Man, I wish I could have seen more of this movie; not that I didn’t get the full movie—I did. I just could not see it despite watching it on an overcast day with the lights off. The film looks so dark that it is often hard to figure out what is going on, and while most of the time this is annoying, the darkness does work for the mystery the movie is painting (except at the end, when I had to walk up to the television screen to see what was happening. That I did not love).
The Pale Blue Eye as a whole works because of Christian Bale’s performance. I love his work and I have never really had a bad time watching a Christian Bale movie, so I found joy in his portrayal of Landor and the relationship he was building with Poe throughout the film.
It’s worth the watch if you’re a fan of Poe, like myself, and if you like a good murder mystery, but make sure you’re watching The Pale Blue Eye in the darkest of night—not because it is a frightening tale, but because it is honestly quite hard to see most of the time.
The Pale Blue Eye hits Netflix on December 23.
(featured image: Netflix)
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